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Baby Poop

On Call: The Poop on Poop

Q. My baby's bowel movements vary widely in color and consistency. What's normal?

A. How about we start with what's not normal?

* Blood in stool (Note: Blood can look black and tarry as well as red)

* Hard, small stools accompanied by pain, which can mean constipation

* Watery or mucus-y stools more than eight times a day  -- either one could signal infection

On Call: Diarrhea Danger?

Q. My mother says that if my child gets diarrhea, he should see the doctor right away in case he gets dehydrated. Is that true?

Not necessarily, assuming he's more than 6 months old (with really small infants, you should check in with the doctor). Most cases of diarrhea just need to run their course. But do call the doctor if your child's in a lot of pain, or if the diarrhea lasts more than a week, is bloody, and is accompanied by a high fever, vomiting (more than once), or a rash on the body (though diaper rash is perfectly normal during diarrhea).

Ask Dr. Sears: Constipation Cures

Q. My baby has had a little blood in her stool lately. Is this serious?

A. No. This is common and harmless -- and almost always due to a tiny tear in the rectum (called a rectal fissure), typically caused by constipation.

Nonetheless, you'll want to take some steps to help soften her stools, since rectal fissures can cause some discomfort and a very fussy baby.

My Baby Goes a Long Time Without Pooping—What Do I Do?

Constipation refers to the hardness of the stools and the difficulty passing them, and not so much the frequency of bowel movements. If your baby is not bloated or colicky, and isn't straining to have a bowel movement, it could just be that this is his normal intestinal pattern. Still, nine days without a bowel movement is a bit long. I suggest you keep track of his feeding patterns for a while. See if you can encourage him to have a stool more often. Here's how:

The Truth About Constipation

You know the signs: Your baby grunts and squirms while trying to produce a bowel movement, or simply doesn't at all -- for days. This has to mean that the poor little guy's constipated, right? Not necessarily, say experts. While you can expect to change an average of two to four messy diapers a day before your baby's first birthday, some babies can go several days or longer between stools. Even some straining during a bowel movement can be considered normal, especially if you have recently introduced solid foods to your child's diet.

The Poop On...

It may be tough to admit, but once you have a baby you become more interested in poop than you ever would have imagined. Typically, infants who are breast-fed will have mustard-yellow, very soft stools. Formula-fed babies, and those who are eating solids, have darker, firmer stools. But variations in appearance are bound to show up, and most are completely normal. Here's a guide:

Green Stool